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There is a two-word or three-word English phrase, whose third word may be "coast", that means a style of work / living in which one works very hard and then lives off the efforts of the work for a time, and then works hard again.

I once knew the phrase, but I no longer remember it.

Does anyone know what the phrase is?

closed as unclear what you're asking by user66974, NVZ, curiousdannii, jimm101, Drew Mar 28 '16 at 1:40

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  • The Ant and the GrasshopperWiki – Mazura Mar 28 '16 at 1:06
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I am glad that you say the third word may be ‘coast’... because I cannot think of an example where it is!

The thought that you describe does, however, sound very much like resting on one's laurels: ‘to be satisfied with one’s past accomplishments and not put forth any further efforts’ (definition at grammarist.com).

The phrase derives from the laurel wreath bestowed to recognise great success in ancient Greek athletics. That is also the root of the still-current term laureate (Merriam-Webster), now meaning someone who has been honoured for achievement amongst a much wider range of cultural activities. (Nobel Prize winners, for example, are termed Nobel laureates [thefreedictionary.com], and in the UK the monarch’s appointed poet is the Poet Laureate, as discussed at Wikipedia.)

Resting on one’s laurels means allowing the evidence (not now literally a laurel wreath, as a rule!) of outstanding past deeds to impress people, while in fact making no further effort at all. It is frequently used in the negative sense that someone is using past success to avoid having to bother any longer. Sometimes, however, the expression is used to suggest that someone has already achieved (and in some sense contributed) so much that they can reasonably be allowed to take it easy now, and others might willingly take up the slack.

  • I am ever so pleased that some are finding this Answer useful. I am perfectly content that others feel otherwise, but users cannot possibly improve their activity here if you give no reasons for downvoting. I can see no obvious downfall in the effort made here. Is it the research, or the background provided, or what? – Captain Cranium Mar 27 '16 at 12:29
  • This answer could be improved by citing the source of the quote and not merely linking to it. Links tend to break over time. – candied_orange Mar 27 '16 at 14:17
  • @CandiedOrange Thanks, that's helpful -- I have accordingly exposed references. I see a range of referencing styles here, one way or another demonstrating something of a tension between fullness and brevity. Drawing on experience in other disciplined writing arenas, I am still working on a stylistic balance for SE (or perhaps for ELU in particular). – Captain Cranium Mar 27 '16 at 15:11
  • I considered this as well (I didn't down-vote), but resting on one's laurels is typically a single-cycle version of what the OP wants. – Lawrence Mar 28 '16 at 1:00
  • @Lawrence I was just crqashinh – Captain Cranium Mar 28 '16 at 1:05
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Well...a related three word phrase ending in 'coast' is 'burst-and-coast' swimming in fish, alternating a brief period of swimming with a coast of constant depth or a downward glide. This behaviour is believed to increase endurance, being recruited at speeds where fatigue may occur.

Source: Mechanics and Physiology of Animal Swimming. CUP, 1994

In transferring this concept to human work behaviours, I haven't been able to source a phrase describing the overall employment pattern outlined by the OP: intensive working on limited time projects, punctuated by rest/recovery breaks financed by earnings from previous projects.

However, U.S. research shows that the 10% most productive employees work 52 minute 'sprints' or 'bursts', then break for 17 minutes before starting work again.

Sources: National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 21923. Not Working at Work: Loafing, Unemployment and Labor Productivity, Jan 2016

TIME Magazine. Careers & Workplace, Oct 20, 2014

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    +1: I really like this one. It was lurking somewhere in my near-recollection: long ago I found this used (with the fish background) in writing about cycling. It was and is a possible explanation for why I can cycle all day but couldn't run to save anyone's life. Thank you for reacquainting me. – Captain Cranium Mar 28 '16 at 1:23
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He is in a cycle of rapid stockpiling of resources followed by their gradual usage over time. This resembles a reverse-sawtooth waveform, mapping resources vs time, with a rapid rise, followed by a slow negative ramp.

wave image
(source: electronics-tutorials.ws)

To Stockpile

Accumulate a large stock of (goods or materials): he claimed that the weapons were being stockpiledhttp://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/stockpile

  • Thanks @glorfindel. Regarding your change message would broken image fixed (click 'side-by-side output' to see the difference) be more obvious than "[...] rendered [...]" – k1eran Feb 26 at 2:58
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    you're right. That wording is aimed at how it's displayed in the Suggested Edits review queue (the script operates networkwide), but for sites like this it should be as you describe. – Glorfindel Feb 26 at 5:49

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